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Digital trends for 2017

We Are Social recently released Think Forward 2017, a report on the top digital trends they are expecting this year. I recommend you read their full report on Slideshare here, but here are some of the highlights, including their top trends.

Trend One: Chatbots and the rise of instant interaction

Indigitous has been fascinated by chatbots and their application to ministry for some time. That’s why the Vokebot was built into the Voke app. In the business world, chatbots are used from everything from ordering a pizza to getting help navigating the real estate market to deciding whether to contest a parking ticket. In ministry, they can be used to give guidance to those who don’t have much experience sharing their faith or to help visitors to evangelistic websites connect with the right content.

According to We Are Social, “chatbots need to serve a real purpose and make life simpler for consumers.”

Voke app

Trend Two: Facilitating intimacy

Double-tapping someone’s picture on Instagram doesn’t really lead to an intimate relationship, but that doesn’t mean technology doesn’t have a role to play in facilitating intimacy. We Are Social looks at The Jigsaw – which encourages people to watch soccer matches with friends rather than alone by having a large screen that needs to be unlocked by filling seats – and Skol Beats – which uses color-based matching with digital masquerade masks to help people find someone they’re compatible with.

How would this look in ministry? Voke, with its ability to help kickstart spiritual conversations, and Talking Stick, with its use of video chat to create community are two examples.

Trend Three: Helpful voyeurs

 Though it may sound kind of creepy, digital tools have made voyeurism popular for some time. We watch other people’s dates on The Bachelor, check out what our friends are eating on Instagram, and vicariously relive our friend’s vacations on Facebook. But that’s nothing new. What’s new is taking voyeurism to the next level, which We Are Social calls “voyeurism 2.0.”

We Are Social gives examples of three platforms that use crowdsourcing for personal matters. “Nattr allows women to get advice for witty texts to send to potential dates; Boompi specifically allows women to invite girlfriends to comment on conversations with date matches and Crowdpilot actually allows a group of friends to listen to your phone conversations and then offer advice.”

Okay, I’ll admit I’m creeped out by that (I’m also wondering who else has been reading my texts). This probably has no ministry application; can you think of one?

Trend Four: A living legacy

 An interesting trend is using technology to leave a lasting legacy after we die. Long after you shuffle off your mortal coil, your friends and family can view your most important thoughts and memories on Eterni.mi, which constructs a memorial based on your social profiles. SafeByond allows you to create future messages, which they say allows you to “communicate with your loved ones beyond the grave.”

In Christ, we have much more to offer than that. We know that Jesus has defeated death, that death has lost its sting. So how can we offer meaningful digital content to those who are so concerned with leaving a legacy after death?

Trend Five: Anti-advocacy

 Horrible, offensive comments on the Internet and social media have been around since the advent of the Internet and social media. That’s why I have a longstanding rule of never reading the comment section on anything (except the Indigitous.org blog, of course). But can anything be done about it?

Brazil publicly shames people for racist tweets by putting screenshots of those tweets on billboards. Refugee aid organization Calais Action created a bot that would reply to any hateful comment with a link to donate money to the cause; in that way, they turned trolls into fundraisers.

Anti-advocacy may be too negative to have a ministry application, but it’s definitely an interesting trend.

Trend Six: Digital equilibrium

 One trend last year was people rejecting digital and going on a “digital detox,” where they took time away from the constant notifications and distractions to enjoy the analog world.

This year, We Are Social is seeing a trend of trying to find the right balance between enjoying the benefits of digital without overdoing it. There’s The Light Phone, a small phone that “is designed to be used as little as possible.” Important calls like from your spouse or your boss are forwarded to that phone but anything else is ignored.

A ministry application could be a product that prepares you to take part in evangelism or discipleship but that you then leave behind to engage with the person face-to-face sans technology.

Trend Seven: The Internet of social things 2.0

We have already seen platform businesses like Uber and Airbnb take off. Here We Are Social are talking about the next level, with platform businesses taking over areas that require more trust. Sure, you’re fine with taking an Uber from the airport, but would you have one drive your child to school or soccer practice? That’s the purpose of Zum. Meanwhile, people are using Uber Pool to carpool with strangers.

Trend Eight: Behavior as currency

If you live in the public eye, you know that your behavior is always under scrutiny. Thanks to the popularity of sharing platforms such as Uber and Rover, this now applies to everyone else. Peeple is a “reputation app” that allows you to recommend people that you meet and interact with in one of three categories: Dating, Professional, and Personal. Meanwhile, there is a coffee shop in Australia that gives progressively cheaper prices to customers based on how polite they are when ordering.

This begs two important questions:

  1. If people are more open to hearing the Gospel from someone they trust, how can the “behavior as currency” model be incorporated into your ministry?
  2. Who wants to recommend me as a great date on Peeple?

Trend Nine: Socially smart money

 Using social platforms to send people money (PayPal, Venmo, etc.) is nothing new. What is new is using platforms for saving and managing money. Cleo is an A.I. assistant that “you can chat with about your personal finance, providing you with regular budget readings and reminders to help you keep track of your spending.” Embarq is a platform from Air Canada that helps people ask friends and family to raise money for their flights.

What do you think?

Those are the nine digital trends from We Are Social’s Think Forward 2017. What do you think? Did they miss a big trend? How can these be applied to Kingdom work? Share your thoughts in the comments below (I promise I will read them).



There are 3 comments

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  1. Campbell Smythe

    Discipleship, growth and community will always require connecting with people. As long as technologies enable us to do that or supports that there will be plenty of meaningful ways in which technology can be used in ministry.

    Are there any apps used to start spiritual conversations with others for example on a community network? An app that people use to connect with others nearby and chat on different topics, one of which could be faith issues?

  2. Jeremy Lukens

    Great questions, Campbell. I don’t know of any chat apps that connect people with others nearby based on different topics. If you made it an anonymous chat, it could be useful for closed countries. If it’s not, it could be good for engaging within your own neighborhood. I know location-based chat apps like Buzz exist, but I don’t think they have the features you’re looking for.

    As for starting spiritual conversations within a community, there are a few things that come to mind. Voke (https://www.vokeapp.com/) is used for kickstarting one-on-one spiritual conversations. A lot of people use WhatsApp, though you’re on your own in terms of coming up with content. The Gloo app (https://www.gloo.us/) is made more for discipleship types of conversations around learning material.

    That’s what I can think of off the top of my head.

  3. Nikole Hahn

    Re: Advocacy “Can anything be done about it?” As a social media person with WorldVenture, I am working at training and mobilizing the church so eventually we can do better online. I find that pointing out negative behavior does nothing, but if you train them after you understand their social obstacles, they actually start being more strategic, more human online.


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